Jonathan Duhamel is perhaps best known for his victory in the 2010 World Series of Poker Main Event, when he outlasted a field of 7,319 players to claim a first prize of $8,944,310. Since then the Team PokerStars Pro has rubber stamped that achievement with a win in the EPT Deauville High Roller event six months later, and then in 2012 reached four final tables at the 2012 PCA, including the high and super high roller events.
But those major achievements had to start somewhere, and that means day one, a day fraught with tension, excitement and opportunity, if played correctly that is. Put simply it's the most important day of any poker tournament - you have to survive it to have any chance of winning.
In the 2010 WSOP main event Duhamel did survive it and the rest is widely read poker history now. So looking back at that first day, Duhamel talked to the PokerStars Blog about the preparations he made and gave some insight into how any player can make the most of such a crucial time.
"What I remember was that day one was about going as far as possible. When you get there there's so many players that you don't expect to win it. For me it was just go out there and try to play well and make it through the day. I thought to myself, if I play well we'll see what happens. But it wasn't about trying to win at that point. It was so early in the tournament, you do what you need to do and see what happens."
Comparing it to the year before...
"The first year I played I made it to day three, just a little short of the money. After that you've got the experience, it's not the same feeling as playing the main for the first time. So I knew what to expect when going to play [a year later]. But I knew how to play. I mean I was playing online for a long time before that. I was just trying to play well and do my thing out there."
Jonathan Duhamel in action at the World Series of Poker
Ignoring the money...
"That's the attraction for a lot of people, maybe the more amateur players. For myself I tried not to think about it when they announce the pay-out, not even listen to it. I don't want to know what's first place. I just try to play my best and win after that. I don't mind if it's for 10,000 or ten million, whatever. I just want to win every tournament I play.
"So it just it's about my table and playing well on my table. Try not to think about all the rest because it doesn't matter at that point. What really matters is your table, the players at your table and your chip stack. This is what you can control. If you play well, and you're on the final table, then you can start thinking about it."
The first table in 2010...
"I remember it was a really tough one. I think I finished the day with 40,000 from 30,000 so it wasn't that good of a day for me. But at that point the tournament is still young, so even though you finish the day with 40,000 you're still pretty good going into day two.
"I was just happy to get through to day two; a new table and a fresh new start. You never win those tournaments so early. So keep on going. It's like you don't want to be on too much of a roller coaster, you want a slow grind, slowly going up. And after that [for me] that's what happened."
How to approach the early stages...
"I was a cash game player before and the first few levels are like cash games, because you're so deep anyways. So the goal is to accumulate chips as much as possible. There's not much else you can do. You don't need to have that much experience to understand that mentality."
Keeping good company...
"I always have a lot of friends travelling with me. We're like a big family in Quebec, everyone cheers for each other. So we were maybe 20 Quebecois out there. It was a lot of fun. As it goes on a lot of players get eliminated and they go home, so the deeper you go the fewer friends you have around you. So you have to be focused.
"It's kind of weird but you know the guy who's going deep at that point doesn't want to party, he doesn't want to do anything so he's going to be boring if you stay with him! And people are tired of Vegas because they've been there for over a month. So they want to go home. I think it's a good thing also because you see them leaving but you realise that you're getting closer and closer to the goal. So your focus and mentality gets even better."
The day one routine...
"It starts with having a good night's sleep. Sometimes it's kind of tough, especially when you get deep in a tournament you start thinking too much. Personally it's always one or two beers at night to relax a little bit then sleep well. Then in the morning a shower and a good breakfast that will fill you but not too much. You don't want an empty stomach, you'll think like s*** after that. For me it was the same omelette, some fruit and stuff. I was ready to go after that.
Jonathan Duhamel in action yesterday
"After that it's about getting into your mind set. For the main event I was listening to the same song all the time. It got me so pumped up. It was "I'm shipping up to Boston", by the Dropkick Murphys. I don't know why but it would keep me so pumped. I had a few friends remaining so we all had the same routine. It's just really about being mentally prepared, because you know you're going to be there for 12 hours, hopefully. So you got to be mentally prepared to play for a long stretch."
Sounds like superstition...
"I don't think its superstition. To be mentally ready you need that, because if you're not ready when play starts in the morning you might get crushed in the first hour, and the first hour is really important. So you need to be in a good mind set and be ready to battle with all the others.
"I've always been a hockey player and most hockey players are really superstitious, and I was too. Never in my life would I put my left skate on before the right one, I never even tried it, and I don't want to try it. In poker it's kind of different. I don't want superstitions because it would be way too easy [to damage my game]. You do well and you think it's because of this or because of that. It would be too complicated. I try to keep my superstitions to a minimum. Sure, sometimes things get in your head, but you have to try to let it go."
The dinner break...
"The first few days [at the World Series] we were a lot of people so we'd try to go to the Gold Coast (next door to the Rio) because there's no one there and you can relax a little bit with your friends. It's just about trying to relax a little bit. The best would probably be to go back to your room and order room service but you don't have time.
"Don't eat too much, never steaks and stuff. It's always going to be like fish, tuna chicken. It will fill you but not in a way that will make you fall asleep. The the blind levels are always really high after the dinner break so you have to be mentally ready to do moves and stuff."
What's different now..?
"The game changes all the time, the game evolves, so you need to evolve with the game. I play completely different from the way I played in the 2010 main event. The game has changed, you need to play differently, find new strategies and adapt to new situations and stuff. As for the approach, that doesn't really change either. It's always the same in any sports. When you arrive be mentally ready to go out there and to battle and do what you need to do, so you need good rest and to eat well and be physically and mentally in shape so you're ready to compete. That routine will almost never change."
You can read more about Jonathan Duhamel on the Team PokerStars Pro page.
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